The Future of Health Care and Electronic Records

Today, we’ve taken great steps forward in bringing America’s health records into the 21st century. Widespread and meaningful use of fully functional electronic health record systems combined with a robust infrastructure for broad-based health information exchange can improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of health care for all Americans.

As more organizations adopt electronic health records, physicians will have greater access to patient information, allowing faster and more accurate diagnoses. Complete patient data helps ensure the best possible care.

Patients too will have access to their own information and will have the choice to share it with family members securely, over the Internet, to better coordinate care for themselves and their loved ones.

Digital medical records make it possible to improve quality of patient care in numerous ways. For example, doctors can make better clinical decisions with ready access  to full medical histories for their patients—including new patients, returning patients, or patients who see several different providers. Laboratory tests or x-rays downloaded and stored in the patient’s electronic health record make it easier to track results. Automatic alerts built into the systems direct attention to possible drug interactions or warning signs of serious health conditions. E-prescribing lets doctors send prescriptions electronically to the pharmacy, so medications can be ready and waiting for the patient.

And while electronic health records require an initial investment of time and money, clinicians who have implemented them have reported saving money in the long term. With the efficiencies that electronic health records promise, their widespread use has the potential to result in significant  cost savings across our health care system.

The future looks bright, but the vision can’t become reality without first laying a firm foundation.

Helping us in this endeavor are the providers, software developers, health care administrators, patients, and others on the frontlines of health care. We talked with them about their experiences and expectations of health IT. We heard their aspirations and their reservations.   Our commitment to ensure privacy and security of electronic health records and health information exchange will remain at the forefront of all our efforts.  We are confident that what we’ve learned from these ongoing conversations will lead to the development of a structure designed to support and improve health care in this country.

The final rules recently released are the blueprints for that structure. The standards and certification final rule, released on July 13, 2010, helps ensure that certified electronic health records will have the capabilities necessary to achieve our goals. And now, with the release of the final rule for the meaningful use of electronic health records, we have a plan for how those capabilities can lead to better health care.

These rules are not an end in and of themselves, but provide us with a plan for the future.

I recognize the challenges and obstacles before us. Fundamental changes are difficult to undertake but I saw the difference an EHR made in my practice and I can clearly see where meaningful use of health information technology can take us.

Now that we have the foundation in place and the blueprints in hand, I encourage you to continue  your electronic health record adoption and implementation efforts so we can transform our vision into reality.

– Dr. David Blumenthal, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology

17 Comments

  1. Paul says:

    As long as an individual’s SSAN is included this is just an open door to Internet hacking and identity theft. It’s time that SSAN’s be relegated to their original intent – collect and pay taxes and benefits. Any use of a SSAN for ANY other purpose must be made completely illegal.

    Assign a medical ID to all eligible individuals. NO SSAN’s.

  2. Federal funding may be encouraging a move toward EHR, but there’s more to it than just installing systems. How can healthcare data pooling lead to a better system? More at http://www.healthcaretownhall.com/?p=2193

  3. A Cavale says:

    Having invested in an electronic medical office for over 8 years, and having lived the trials and tribulations of operating it without a single dollar of extra reimbursement for our efforts, I can say that this can only be successful if we as providers are allowed to utilize our strengths to negotiate appropriate reimbursement from public and private payers. Anything short of this is simply lip service, and will only serve to propagate the myth that health IT pays for itself. I am still looking for an opportunity to compete in true free market conditions, that are non-existent under the current price-fixed environment.

  4. Sree says:

    The Meaningful Use Final Rule is a turning point in American healthcare. It will go a long way in improving healthcare for millions of people. I’m sure after a few years, statistics will show that meaningful use of EHRs have helped us achieve better patient care and improve the health and well being of the common man.

    Providers might be facing problems implementing EHR systems, but in the long run EHRs are only going to make the provider’s life easier, save his/her time. This means doctors will have more time for research and advanced studies which again is good for healthcare.

  5. Adam Bates says:

    When the PC and accounting / ERP software was introduced to private industry there was no government incentive, yet very few successful companies today rely on paper ledgers to run their businesses.

    Better information translates to higher quality patient care, but arbitrary implementation dates, conflicting and confusing mandates, and the tantalizing stimulus money only serve to distract providers from their real responsibility: providing quality patient care.

    If an EMR system truly saves money, physicians and providers will implement it to save money. If an EMR system improves patient care, then a physician / provider focused on the best interest of their patients will implement it.

    I have personally worked with lots of great physicians that still use paper charts and provide outstanding patient care. I have worked with physicians on EMR that simply care about the money.

    Hopefully now that meaningful use and some of the other gray areas are being resolved, the focus will return to evaluating the effectiveness of a physician and monitoring the quality of patient care, regardless of the medium on which the patient’s information is maintained.

  6. AMH in Ohio says:

    So long as records can easily be shared, the this should help health care management. My concern is with the HIPPA privacy rules that institutions will be unwilling to pass information along freely to one another.

  7. Martin says:

    We have had a long battle in the UK to get some form of digital or e-records in place. It is taking time but evetually it will be worth it. Digital medical records make it possible to improve quality of patient care in numerous ways. For example, doctors can make better clinical decisions with ready access to full medical histories for their patients—including new patients, returning patients, or patients who see several different providers.

  8. Cavele says:

    I would agree that the electronic health record systems is definitely a step in the right direction. However, as with most systems it will only be as good as the people who use it on a daily basis. My main concern with this system is patient privacy and the safeguarding of patient records. But then again storing patient information in filing cabinets is not that safe and efficient either. I’m all for giving this new technology a try.

  9. Where are the rules allowing for clinical applicability of the system we establish? Patient oriented information technology rather than information technology for technology’s sake! With the 11% cut in medicare fees, lack of funding of electronic medical records for ALL physicians, 20-30 % medicare or medicaid, or not, inappropriate audits of physicians with the assertation you are guilty of fraud unless you documented the lack of the negative finding, why should any private physician or physician group be inclined to implement these systems? Especially as motivated independent physician groups, previously unfunded remain ignored, those already funded get more, and the common language and definitions remain lacking making the physician the default common denominator to make propriatery systems work, without paying for the trouble. Information exchange between big systems is not the point. exchange between providers of healthcare, healthcare professional to professional is the point! not hospital to hospital! It’s no longer worth while and until those in power start listening, we remain unlikely to succeed. Sincerely, a previously hopeful, now doubtful believer in t implementation of our information systems…please start paying attention and listen.

  10. Bali says:

    Implementing IT solutions is not easy nor cheap. I have implemented many systems myself and often the benefits are not realised immediately- it takes time. I see time and time again many businesses spending to much money on IT systems to automate simple tasks that do not need to be automated. A cost benefit analysis must show a net benefit to the organisation otherwise it will only unnecessarily increase medical serving costs.

  11. I certainly agree that the use of electronic health records is indeed good as it can help save a lot of time for both medical professionals and patients. Also, electronic records can save storage cost and provide a more reliable but rich source of information for health care providers. Thus, cross-checking of similar records can be practiced to allow professionals to come up with more effective cures for certain ailments.

    However, the concern is that electronic records are more vulnerable to hackers. This directly threatens the privacy of patients and can be disastrous if used for unlawful purposes.

  12. C Heglar says:

    I agree with alot of the other comment that where made. I dont think that the full benefit of EHR may not proven for at least 10 to 20 years.

  13. R MacKenzie says:

    Having worked in the hospital system in Canada with and without similar systems, I believe the multiple headaches created by implementation is well worth it in the long run.

  14. Site says:

    Health care privacy is a big issue. If digital medical records can ensure that privacy is a priority,I think it’s a win-win for everybody.

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